The Best Online Certificate in Counseling Programs

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by TBS Staff

Updated August 22, 2022

Aspiring paralegals can earn a certificate or associate degree to get started in their careers. Learn about the best online paralegal programs below.

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Online Paralegel Programs

Law firms and businesses rely on paralegals and legal assistants to perform a variety of legal tasks. Students interested in online paralegal programs can earn an online paralegal certificate, an online paralegal associate degree, or an online paralegal bachelor's degree.

Paralegals help lawyers prepare for trials and meetings; they also conduct research on relevant laws and regulations, study legal articles, and create reports. Their responsibilities vary depending on the type of legal practice; some paralegals help prepare mortgages and other financial documents, while others investigate, collect, and organize evidence for court hearings. Paralegals in large firms often specialize in a particular area of law, whereas those in small firms often work on cases from beginning to end.

The paralegal profession has expanded in recent years as public agencies, private law firms, and corporations recognize that employing paralegals increases their efficiency and cost-effectiveness. The minimum education required for paralegals is a certificate in paralegal studies. However, employers Typically, prefer candidates with more education.

Bachelor’s programs in paralegal studies are less common than paralegal certificate and associate programs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some aspiring paralegals earn a bachelor’s degree in another subject, such as criminal justice or law, and then pursue a paralegal certificate.

Featured Associate Programs

The Best Online Paralegal Programs

  1. Mississippi College
    Location

    Clinton, MS

    A private Baptist college founded in 1826, MC offers an online graduate certificate in paralegal studies. This 27-credit program offers post-baccalaureate students the opportunity to gain legal skills.

    Required courses include an introduction to law, legal research and bibliography, legal writing, wills and estates, and family law and equity practice. Students can complete the program in as little as one year.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution in any field to qualify for admission. Certificate applicants do not need to supply standardized test scores.

  2. Regent University
    Location

    Virginia Beach, VA

    A private Christian university founded in 1977, Regent offers an online bachelor of science in paralegal studies. Students complete at least 120 credits solely online.

    In addition to general education and elective coursework, required courses include foundations of legal studies, an introduction to judicial systems, law office environment, and civil law and procedure. Students receive training in multiple areas of law procedure and can take advantage of resources from Regent's School of Law.

    The school allows students to transfer up to 90 credits toward their degree. Applicants do not need to submit standardized test scores to qualify for admission.

  3. University of Providence
    Location

    Great Falls, MT

    A private Catholic university founded in 1932, UP offers an online bachelor of science in paralegal studies for enlisted Air Force or Army service members. Students must complete general education courses in person at a location nearest them and then transfer the credits toward the online bachelor's degree.

    The program requires 60 credits of major-specific coursework to complete the program. Core courses include an introduction to legal analysis, litigation, and trial practice; domestic and family law; and legal research and writing.

    Applicants need at least 60 credits of undergraduate courses and current enlistment paperwork to apply for this unique program.

  4. University of Alaska Fairbanks
    Location

    Fairbanks, AK

    Tuition

    $10458

    Founded in 1917, UAF offers an online associate of paralegal studies. Students complete courses asynchronously and synchronously to adhere to the American Bar Association requirements.

    Required courses include ethics for paralegals, constitutional law for paralegals, legal research and writing for paralegals, and advanced legal writing. Students also choose electives in fields like torts, probate law, or business organizations.

    Applicants need a high school diploma with a minimum GPA of 2.5 and must submit standardized test scores to qualify for admission.

  5. George Washington University
    Location

    Washington, DC

    A private research university founded in 1821, GW offers a master of professional studies certificate in paralegal studies. Students complete courses online and may apply the certificate to a master's degree later.

    Required courses include legal research and writing, American jurisprudence, business entities, and litigation. From there, students take courses in legal practice areas, such as government contracts, intellectual property law, and administrative law.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 to qualify for admission.

  6. Eastern Kentucky University
    Location

    Richmond, KY

    Tuition

    $14273

    A public university founded in 1906, EKU offers a suite of paralegal studies programs for online students. Learners can choose an associate in applied science, bachelor of science, or a post-baccalaureate certificate, as well as a minor.

    Students complete courses in convenient eight-week terms, focusing on fewer courses at once. Participants begin with foundational training in the associate degree and can move to more specific field knowledge as they progress. The programs include a synchronous component to satisfy the American Bar Association requirements.

    Applicants to the associate and bachelor's degrees need a high school diploma. Certificate students need a bachelor's degree.

  7. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
    Location

    Saint Mary of the Woods, IN

    A private Catholic college founded in 1840, SMWC offers an online bachelor of arts in paralegal studies. Students complete 51 credits for the major solely online.

    Required major courses include computer basics in law, theories of liability, contracts and commercial transactions, and interviewing and investigation. Students can take some general education courses online through SMWC or may arrange to take courses elsewhere.

    Applicants need a strong high school record but do not need to send standardized test scores to apply or receive admission.

  8. Liberty University
    Location

    Lynchburg, VA

    A private Christian university, Liberty offers an online undergraduate certificate in paralegal studies. Students complete 18 credits and may transfer in up to 75% of the required credits.

    Required courses include an introduction to paralegal studies, legal research, foundations of law, and civil practice. Students choose one elective course in a specific area of law such as real estate transactions and property or tort law.

    Applicants need a high school diploma and a 1.5 GPA for all courses attempted in high school or college to qualify for admission.

  9. William Woods University
    Location

    Fulton, MO

    A private university founded in 1870, WWU offers an online bachelor of science in paralegal studies. Students complete a 14-course sequence in addition to general education requirements.

    Core paralegal studies courses include law and paralegalism, electronic legal research, administrative and federal procedure, and constitutional issues. A capstone and practicum experience provides real-world experience through a virtual internship simulation.

    Applicants need a high school diploma with a minimum GPA of 2.5 and a top 50% SAT or ACT score to qualify for admission. Otherwise, students may apply for provisional admission.

  10. Tallahassee Community College
    Location

    Tallahassee, FL

    Tuition

    $3628

    Founded in 1966, TCC offers an online associate of science in paralegal and legal studies. Students complete 64 credits in just two years to finish.

    In addition to general education courses, students complete courses such as legal concepts of business, introduction to the legal process, litigation procedures, and law office procedures and management. Students can also opt to enroll in an internship.

    Applicants need a high school diploma or GED records to qualify for admission. The school does not require standardized test scores.

Online Paralegal Associate Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

Best Online Bachelor's Programs

What is a Paralegal Certificate?

A paralegal certificate provides the basic qualifications for paralegal positions. These programs focus primarily on core concepts in the field. While some programs confer a non-credit paralegal certificate, others award credit that learners can apply toward an associate or bachelor’s degree. Depending on the program, students can earn a paralegal certificate in as few as six months.

Top Online Paralegal Certificates

What is a Paralegal Associate Degree?

Students earning an associate in paralegal studies online complete major courses and general education requirements. Students in these two-year programs gain more foundational knowledge than learners in paralegal certificate programs. Associate coursework Typically, covers topics including English, communications, math, and foreign languages. Online paralegal associate degrees may offer concentration options and often include an internship or practicum experience, which may be optional or mandatory.

Popular Associate Programs

Accreditation for Online Paralegal Programs

Though paralegals cannot receive certification from the American Bar Association (ABA), they can earn their education from ABA-approved programs. Because ABA requires programs to meet a difficult set of criteria, ABA approval demonstrates high quality. ABA-approved online paralegal programs must include at least 10 on-campus semester hours. Entirely online paralegal programs cannot receive ABA approval.

Based on input from legal professionals, corporations, government agencies, and local bar associations, ABA-approved programs feature curricula designed to prepare paralegals for the workforce. A degree from an ABA-approved program is an attractive credential for job seekers. Only about 25% of the country’s paralegal associate and bachelor’s programs hold ABA approval.

How Long Does It Take to Complete a Paralegal Program Online?

Students can earn an online paralegal certificate in as few as six months. However, professionals with more education generally enjoy increased career opportunities. Completing a two-year associate or four-year bachelor’s program can lead to more job options and higher earning potential. Some individuals earn a certificate and work in the field while pursuing a degree.

Courses in an Online Paralegal Certificate Program

Courses in an Online Paralegal Associate Program

Becoming a Certified Paralegal

While the profession does not require certification, certification Typically, leads to more career opportunities for paralegals. Many employers require or prefer paralegals with professional certification. To become a certified paralegal, candidates must meet the educational requirements of the certifying organization and must pass one or more certification exams. Some associate programs feature curricula designed to meet certification standards.

Paralegal Certification Exams

Candidates for paralegal certifications must Typically, pass an exam, such as:

Choosing an Online Paralegal Studies Program

Educational outcomes and learning experience vary by program, so students pursuing an online paralegal associate degree should research their options before selecting a school. Because earning a college degree requires significant financial and time commitments, students should choose an accredited online paralegal associate degree that helps them achieve their career goals. Along with tuition rate, prospective students should consider the length, transfer policy, and average class size of each program. The list below includes crucial factors to consider when evaluating prospective schools.

Best Online Paralegal Certificates

What Do Paralegals Do?

Paralegals help lawyers prepare solid cases. They gather information, conduct research on relevant laws and legal precedents, write reports, organize documents, and contact clients for interviews. While they assist lawyers, paralegals cannot perform acts that require a legal license, including offering legal advice and setting legal fees.

Generalist paralegals often work in small law firms. They must know about a variety of legal areas and prove adept at performing many tasks. Aspiring paralegals can also specialize in a certain area or pursue certification in a niche. Common specialization areas for paralegals include:

  • Corporate
  • Criminal Defense
  • Environmental Law
  • Estate Planning and Probate
  • Family Law
  • Immigration

Paralegal vs. Legal Assistant

Law offices and professional organizations often use the terms “paralegal” and “legal assistant” interchangeably. Firms may use the term “legal assistant” to describe the nature of a paralegal’s job, which includes assisting legal professionals with cases. Legal secretaries, on the other hand, have fewer responsibilities and more limitations than paralegals. Legal secretaries Typically, answer phone calls, manage front desks at law offices, and forward memos.

Salary Information for Paralegals

The salary of a paralegal depends on the professional’s specialization area, experience level, and industry. According to PayScale, senior paralegals earn the highest salaries, averaging $69,485 per year, and litigation paralegals earn the lowest, with an average salary of $53,939 per year.

A paralegal’s industry significantly impacts their earning potential. The BLS reports that the highest-paid paralegals work in the federal government, where they earn a median annual salary of $65,970.

Salary by Experience for Paralegals

  • Entry Level: $37,000
  • Early Career: $47,000
  • Mid-career: $51,000
  • Late Career: $55,000

Source: PayScale

Salary by Job Title or Specialization
Job Title Average Salary
Litigation Paralegal $53,921
Intellectual Property Paralegal $64,896
Corporate Paralegal $65,439
Senior Paralegal $69,485

Source: PayScale

Highest-Paying Industries for Paralegals
Job Title Median Salary
Federal Government $65,970
Finance and Insurance $60,730
Local Government $49,600
Legal Services $48,380
State Government $46,240

Source: PayScale

Frequently Asked Questions About Paralegal Programs

What is a Paralegal Certificate?

A paralegal certificate provides the basic qualifications for paralegal positions. These programs focus primarily on core concepts in the field. While some programs confer a non-credit paralegal certificate, others award credit that learners can apply toward an associate or bachelor’s degree. Depending on the program, students can earn a paralegal certificate in as few as six months.

What is a Paralegal Associate Degree?

Students earning an associate in paralegal studies online complete major courses and general education requirements. Students in these two-year programs gain more foundational knowledge than learners in paralegal certificate programs. Associate coursework Typically, covers topics including English, communications, math, and foreign languages. Online paralegal associate degrees may offer concentration options and often include an internship or practicum experience, which may be optional or mandatory.

What Do Paralegals Do?

Paralegals help lawyers prepare solid cases. They gather information, conduct research on relevant laws and legal precedents, write reports, organize documents, and contact clients for interviews. While they assist lawyers, paralegals cannot perform acts that require a legal license, including offering legal advice and setting legal fees.

How Long Does It Take to Complete a Paralegal Program Online?

Students can earn an online paralegal certificate in as few as six months. However, professionals with more education generally enjoy increased career opportunities. Completing a two-year associate or four-year bachelor’s program can lead to more job options and higher earning potential. Some individuals earn a certificate and work in the field while pursuing a degree.

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